By Brandon Moseley and Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
You have to be a US citizen in order to participate in the election process (either by birth or by completing the naturalization process). Everyone knows and understands this; but no one has been required to provide proof that they are actual citizens in order to participate.
That was about to change after the Executive Director Brian Newby of the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) had granted the requests of Alabama, Georgia, and Kansas to include documentary proof of citizenship requirements in the state-specific instructions to the federal voter registration form, used for mail-in registration. On Friday, September 9, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit narrowly reversed (2-1) a lower court ruling and issued an injunction against imposing the requirement.
In a written reply to questioning by Alabama Political Reporter editor Bill Britt, Alabama Secretary of State Deputy Chief of Staff John Bennett answered: “Currently, the Alabama form requires that each applicant certify under penalty of perjury that they are a US citizen, however, they have not been required to provide specific proof of citizenship unless evidence existed which would have called into question that applicants citizenship. At this time we have not yet implemented systems which would require the proof to be presented upfront.”
Bennett said, “We will continue to closely watch and monitor the situation to ensure that Alabama continues to comply with the law, both state and federal, in every situation.
Secretary Merrill has made it clear and continues to confirm that he wants every eligible US citizen, that is a resident of Alabama, to be registered to vote and to have a photo I.D.
On Monday, September 12, The President of the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law Kristen Clarke said in a statement, “Proof of citizenship requirements are yet another tactic used by those seeking to make it more difficult for people to register and vote across our country, we hope that the DC District Court ultimately grants relief that will help ensure that tens of thousands of eligible citizens in Kansas, Georgia, and Alabama are not denied the right vote by an unnecessary and burdensome restriction.”
The plaintiffs, which included the Georgia State Conference of NAACP Branches, the Peoples’ Coalition for the Peoples’ Agenda, and the League of Women Voters of the United States, Alabama, Georgia and Kansas, argued that the executive director’s decision was outside the scope of his authority because the EAC could act only with the approval of three Commissioners, and no such action had been taken by the Commissioners to approve the states’ requests.
Alabama State Auditor Jim Zeigler (R) said on Saturday in response to the ruling: “This is an absurd ruling. We must fight this. Only US citizens should vote in US elections.”